Evidence from the MBRRACE report (Mothers and Babies Reducing Risk through Audit and Confidential Enquiries) tells us that there is a difference in outcomes for women and babies depending on ethnicity. Work is underway within all national maternity services to understand and change this. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women and people are more likely to have worse experiences during maternity care, when compared to white women. Having a baby in the UK is generally very safe for all women, but sadly the very small risks are not shared equally. Black and Asian women are more likely to be amongst those women who lose their lives. Enquiries into the reasons why this is happening are currently ongoing and health services in Kent and Medway are working hard to reduce and eliminate these differences.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has teamed up with campaigners from 5 X More to make urgent changes. The first improvement that services are making is to ensure that all families are listened to without judgement or assumptions. If you feel this is not happening, it can be difficult to raise your concerns. You may find it useful to discuss your thoughts and plans with others who share your heritage, in a safe space. The team at Birthing In Colour have welcomed Black and Brown women from Kent & Medway to join their informal groups. In this group, birth information is shared specifically for Black and Brown women of African and Asian descent. Please note, these are not NHS groups, and any health issues should be discussed with your midwife.
Emerging evidence suggests that BAME pregnant women are more likely to be admitted to hospital with coronavirus than white women. Asian women are four times more likely and Black women eight times more likely to be admitted than white pregnant women.
While more research is being undertaken to understand why this is the case, maternity services have been asked to take extra precautions to keep you safe, which includes prioritising your care and your access to services.
It may be difficult, but by following government guidance, you are helping to protect yourself, your family, the NHS and your community.
If you think you have coronavirus then alert your maternity team and they will advise you about what to do next.
Evidence tells us that Vitamin D deficiency is more likely to be a problem in pregnancy for women with darker skin, so it is particularly important to ensure you are taking 10mcg of Vitamin D daily throughout pregnancy and after the birth. Vitamin D is also currently theorised to play a part in protecting the body against Covid-19, but this link is not yet proven.
If you are eligible for a Healthy Start Card, you will also get Healthy Start vitamins. Alternatively, Vitamin D is included in most pregnancy multi-vitamin tablets which can be bought in supermarkets and pharmacies.
Your culture may influence your ideas, customs and your behaviour and beliefs and your midwifery team will work with you to ensure that the rituals you wish to enact around your birth are respected. In some cases, midwives may recommend that you seek further support, if your rituals conflict with NHS advice and general practices advised against in the UK.
Some cultures have specific practices that we would like to know more about, especially if they affect the support we will need to give to you.
One family, from Nepal, told us about their naming rituals. Ambika, who had just had a little girl, explained: “I am a Hindu and when our baby reaches 11 days old, we have a naming ceremony with a priest. The Priest uses the baby’s time and date of birth to decide which letters are right to represent the baby’s name. We will choose a name for our baby using those letters.”
Other women prefer not to leave their homes for a certain period of time (known as confinement). Another woman told us that she had a post-natal diet of panjeeri, which is a dish made with nuts, butter and milk. In her faith, it is believed to help a woman heal and build up her strength after birth.
Your midwife is there to provide health information and also to understand and respect your decisions. Once you have considered the health information from your midwife, and perhaps had discussions with your cultural leaders, your decisions will be respected.